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Value of having SQF Consultant available during the audit?


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#1 Pizza&Sandwich

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Posted 13 February 2013 - 05:41 PM

When inquiring with SQF consultants regarding their services and fees, one stated that they can be available during the audit and can talk with the auditor and possibly reduce majors to minors and minors to OIs. Is this true?

Those of you that have had a consultant, was it worth it? Where were they most useful? Any pitfalls to watch out for?



Thanks in advance.



#2 esquef

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Posted 13 February 2013 - 05:56 PM

Before I joined the company that employs me they hired a consultant that told them the same thing. Unfortunately I quickly discovered that the guy had lost (or let slip) his SQFI consulting registration and really didn't know the scheme well at all.

So I guess my answer would be: I don't know if a consultant can participate in an actual SQF audit, but I do know that a potential pitfall is hiring an unqualified consultant.



#3 sadean

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Posted 13 February 2013 - 06:05 PM

Consultants can be present during audits, however the auditor generally do not want the consultant speaking on behalf of the organization as they are just a consultant, not a full-time company employee, and therefore the company should have an SQF practitioner that can speak to all aspects of your program. That being said, a consultant may have more experience with audits and knowledge of SQF and may be able to justify how and why you are meeting the specific aspect of the program therefore not getting a non-conformance or reducing it from minor to major. Many times employees get very nervous during audits and they have a hard time thinking on the spot. They may very well have the answers or be meeting the requirements but if they can't prove it and also provide additional explanation, they will get non-conformances.

I am a consultant and have helped several of my clients prepare for audits. In their situations, it was very beneficial to them as they didn't always understand what the auditor was asking and I was able to help provide clarification so they could provide the proper information or answers. You may or may not find that you need a consultant. If you know your program well and your internal audits have proven that your system works, there would be no need to get outside help. It can be beneficial to have someone outside your organization look closely at your system as they can provide feedback on issues that you may not see. If you think that you require assistance, then it may be beneficial.

Just because they are a consultant or SQF consultant doesn't mean that they will be beneficial to your organization. Look into their experience, get some references and ensure that they have worked with the commodity that you produce. If you are in dairy and they work with grain, they won't be very helpful. Good luck!



#4 john123

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Posted 13 February 2013 - 06:42 PM

Our consultant participated in our audit and was a godsend. The nature of our organization might make us a little narrow minded, and when an auditor comes in with more knowledge than we have regarding our process it allows them to really put you on the ropes. Our consultant was able to step up when we were getting hammered with the right kind of "verbiage" the SQF auditor was looking for.

One thing we almost missed (and saved the day before thanks to our consultant): make sure your consultant is listed on your master vendor list. They checked our specifically for our food safety consultant.



#5 George @ Safefood 360°

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Posted 13 February 2013 - 09:28 PM

It can be a double edge sword. From my expeience as a consultant working with companies towards GFSI certification I have found that being present can have both positive and negative impacts.

Having a consultant present I have found can cause the auditor to over compensate for the presence of another 'expert' It is a competitive thing. It can lead to the auditor being a little over zealous in showing their knowledge etc . This can lead to more minors than normal.

The key consideration for me is the strength, knowledge and experience of the auditee (SQF practitioner) If they are good on all fronts and have a good knowledge of the standard then it is better not to have a consultant present. It they are weak this can often invite an over agressive approach by the auditor who quickly realises that their findings will not be challanged. Again this can lead to a lot on minors. An auditor who does not feel that they can be professionally challanged is not a good thing in my experience.


So my advice. If you are not fully confident of your knowledge at this point, then have a good consultant present.



#6 SQFconsultant

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Posted 14 February 2013 - 02:01 PM

When inquiring with SQF consultants regarding their services and fees, one stated that they can be available during the audit and can talk with the auditor and possibly reduce majors to minors and minors to OIs. Is this true?

Those of you that have had a consultant, was it worth it? Where were they most useful? Any pitfalls to watch out for?



Thanks in advance.




Lacey,


I am speaking from being both an SQF Registered Consultant and an SQF Registered Contract Auditor -- if you have worked with an SQF Consultant through development, implementation, and pre-audit prep there is no reason to have one present for the purpose they are indicating, in fact the SQF Auditor has the option of asking the consultant to vacate and during an audit I have done that twice because both times the consultants attempted to "sway" the results of an audit not because I had made an error in standard application but becuase they had missed items while working with their client.

There is another problem with having a consultant offer to do what this consultant has offered to do ---- it is not only the facility and documentation that is being audited. The SQF Practitioner is also being audited for knowledge - if you have a consultant trying to sway an auditors final grade/score then you have great potential for blowback as to why the SQF Practitioner is not fully prepared.

Bottom line, you can have an SQF Registered Consultant present during the audit but I would suggest you think twice about the role they play and I have been present during audits as the consultant but only with the permission of the Auditor and only to offer support to the client and not to attempt to interfere with a qualified and registered SQF Auditor.


If you have done your job, your consultant has done theirs, let the auditor do their work and use your consultant for support only on-site or off-site on the day of the audit.



Glenn Oster

http://www.GetGoc.com

Edited by GOC, 14 February 2013 - 02:04 PM.

Kind regards,

 

Glenn Oster
 
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#7 HACCP Mentor

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Posted 15 February 2013 - 05:19 AM

I am also a SQF auditor and we have been informed (via SQF) that consultants are not to be relied upon to answer questions etc during the audit process. Any good consultant will have adequately trained management and staff in their food safety HACCP system to enable them to progress through an audit without them.

I recommend you read an article I wrote a while back on what to look for in a food safety consultant. It may save you alot of money and headaches in the long run. You can find the article at http://www.haccpment...ety-consultant/

Hope it helps

Cheers
Amanda


Edited by HACCP Mentor, 15 February 2013 - 05:20 AM.


#8 bacon

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Posted 15 February 2013 - 04:07 PM

When inquiring with SQF consultants regarding their services and fees, one stated that they can be available during the audit and can talk with the auditor and possibly reduce majors to minors and minors to OIs. Is this true?

Those of you that have had a consultant, was it worth it? Where were they most useful? Any pitfalls to watch out for?


Hello Lacey,

Fundamentally, having the consultant there during the audit to "help" is really at odds with the concept of ownership of the food safety system. Yes, having them there would be good, but really, metaphorically: when a parent sees their child off to university/college, they should have to be confident that they have provided that child with all the tools/knowledge/lessons/principles to successes and learn on their own. IMO having the consultant holding your hand through an audit prevents the impact of learning for the food packing organization. Again, it defies the principle of ownership of the food safety/quality system.

Personally, not the intent, in the contract work I have done I have sorta done this; the impact on senior management gets diluted. However, I was glad to be there to see how effective my "system" worked and had the feedback to make it better.

Heck, in this market, one could most likely set up SQF document systems and have further contracts to hold food producers hands through every annual audit, but as it defies the principle, I don't think it would be sustainable: helping "pass" the audit in this manner will not make the company any better (as it then will always be understood as "just more bureaucracy" and, IMO, not the intent of the GFSI benchmarks).

My 2 cents.
Cheers,
-Cory

Edited by baron, 16 February 2013 - 06:15 PM.

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